Already, Not Yet

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone.  According to the Christian calendar we are currently in the 2nd week of Advent, celebrating the countdown toward Christmas.  Now for many of you who might be unfamiliar with Advent or only know it for its candy filled pop-open calendars and the colored candles at church, Advent is actually a really cool thing.  The word “advent” is derived from a Latin word that means “coming”, and thus the season of Advent is marked as a period of expectation and preparation for the nativity of Jesus…His “coming” to the world. Advent is suppose to be a joyous and exciting time, filled with eager anticipation for the event of Jesus’ birth.  But how are suppose to be joyful, eager, and expectant when it seems like the world is filled with so much darkness and evil?  How are we suppose to find joy in the darkness?

In the wake of terrorist events like Paris, San Bernardino, and Beirut, or earthquakes in Nepal, Japan, and Mexico and the countless other tragedies that happened this year, how are we suppose to be joyful?  Are we suppose to just forget about all the evil and sadness in the world and temporarily drown our emotions with eggnog, snowflakes, and Christmas cheer?  No…I don't believe our joy is suppose to come from ignorance.  I believe that we are called as Christians to experience the same joy regardless of our circumstances, because much like Advent we are suppose to be expectantly waiting for Jesus’ second “coming”.

In his sermon two weeks ago, Bower gave the explanation for Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.”  Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the same way a Jewish man would speak to the girl he intends to marry.  Jesus is proposing to the disciples (and all believers) and He is calling us His bride.  For more on that check out this blog from last year.  But Bower’s purpose in explaining this scripture was to point out that we, as the bride, should not be waiting idly twiddling our fingers until our groom returns…we should be preparing ourselves everyday to be the best bride we can possibly be.  We know our groom, we understand His desires and needs, and we should be continually be disciplining our body and our actions to conform more and more to His likeness.

And while this all sounds great, it leaves us torn between two worlds.  On one hand, we are stoked and excited about our wedding day.  We cannot wait for the joy that we are going to feel when our groom comes back.  We have already experienced the indescribable joy of being proposed to, being assured that He loves us, and knowing confidently that He will return to us.  But on the other hand, we are living in a broken world filled with pain, sadness, depression.  We have experienced the joy of meeting our groom, but now we are left in the reality that He has not yet come back for us.  And the longer the wait, the worse it seems the world around us gets.  And it is this struggle between the “Already // Not Yet” that we wrestle with everyday.  John Bower decided to use a passage from Habakkuk to illustrate this “longing”:

“How long, Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save? Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.”

…and I think we can relate to Habakkuk’s words.  When we see the world’s tragedies, we understand how Habakkuk must have felt.  And God’s response to Habakkuk doesn’t give us much reassurance.  God tells Habakkuk that things are only going to get worse…the Babylonians are going to rise to power, and they are going to kill and pillage the Israelites.  More bad news.  But we must remember that Habakkuk was living in the pre-messianic era, and God was preparing the world for the Savior He was planning to send to it.  We however, are on the other side of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection and therefore are a redeemed people who have experienced the transformative love of Jesus.  We have felt the true love of the Father, through the loving sacrifice made by the Son, and we have been given the revelation of all these mysteries through the loving wisdom of the Holy Spirit.  And because of all this, we are able to be both thankful and joyful.  But we also must remain expectant, because just as Jesus came to earth once, He has promised to return once again to wipe away every tear, heal all ailments, bind-up all wounds, place the lost in families, and to love His bride (us) for all of eternity.

So this holiday season, while we count down the advent calendar.  Let us remember to be thankful for the first time that Jesus came to earth, and be joyous for the second time that He will come to earth.  And while He is away preparing a room for us, let every one of our hearts prepare room for Him.

Mark Heger and his wife, Emily, live in Lake Highlands.  He is missing an ACL or two. He can be reached at Mark@WakeWell.org.  You can also check out his national ministry at www.wakewell.org.

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